SPG/SSP/SPS: Schweizerische Physikalische Gesellschaft
The Swiss Physical Society (SPS) unites people interested in physics who are active in teaching, didactics, research, development in all branches of industry, at schools, in universities, and research laboratories and is actively organizing and participating in a variety of projects and events.
The pandemic situation has also had its impact in the life and activities of SPS, which comes at no surprise.
One main negative effect was that the annual meeting 2020, originally planned to take place at University of Fribourg, had to be cancelled. The 2020 venue is now scheduled to host the 2022 meeting instead. A joint annual meeting is co-organized with our Austrian sister society ÖPG and will take place in Autumn 2021 in Innsbruck.
The Röntgensymposium that was planned for 2020 in celebration of the 175th anniversary of Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen and the 125th anniversary of his famous discovery of a new kind of rays, now named after him, is postponed by one year. It is now scheduled to take place in September 18th, 2021. Further events were cancelled like the 4th International Jost Bürgi Symposium that always attracts a wide and large audience.
Nevertheless, despite this new and challenging situation, many highlights can still be reported:
Prizes for young talented physicists could be given and were presented in a digital award ceremony, that could be organized despite the pandemic.
A new partnership agreement could be made with ‘Schweizer Jugend forscht’, which completes similar agreements SPS has with Swiss Physics Olympiad, or the International Physics Tournament. Promotion of a next generation of physicists and wide-spread interest and fascination in the field, also by those who may eventually decide against pursuing a career in physics, are both essential for the society at large and the challenges it will have to master.
Independent of the pandemic, effective communication within and across the various sections of our society is assured by publication of the highly-appreciated bulletin, the “SPG Mitteilungen” (or “Communications de la SSP”, or “SPS Communications”; https://www.sps.ch/artikel/communications), and by regularly broadcasting up-to-date information and news over the SPS Web portal. At ca. one month’s intervals, the SPS Newsletter complements the SPS communication scheme, allowing to disseminate actual news at the Swiss, European, and global level more promptly.
Whilst SPS is a member organization of the Swiss Academy of Sciences SCNAT and part of the platform Mathematics, Astronomy and Physics MAP, we also maintain strong links with the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences SATW. The many activities of the Swiss Physical Society, like those summarized above, could only be carried out thanks to the continuous organizational and financial support of SCNAT. The Society made best use of the allocated funds but with many events cancelled or postponed, larger fractions of the allocated funds could not be used as planned and will stay with SCNAT.
The SPS publishes its Bulletin, the “SPG Mitteilungen”, three times per year. It is the most important SPS publication for disseminating information about on-going activities within the society and reviewing scientific progress in various areas. Thanks to the initiative of the scientific editor Bernhard Braunecker and the many contributors within our society, high-class articles are published in the specific rubrics of “Progress in Physics”, “Milestones in Physics”, “Plenary talks”, “Physics Anecdotes & Personal Recollections”, “Physics and Society”, “Physicists in Industry” as well as “History and Philosophy of Physics”. A paper copy of the Bulletin is distributed to all individual members and associate members. Furthermore, open access to this publication is also granted after a few weeks’ courtesy delay to the entire Swiss and international scientific community via the SPS homepage under https://www.sps.ch/en/articles/communications.
The SPS also issues an electronic Newsletter that is edited and issued at high quality by Margherita Boselli (CERN) at a monthly interval. News items inform with high topicality about research, prize winners, conferences, symposia and workshops that are of interest to a broad audience among SPS members.
As already summarized above, the most important event organized by the SPS is its annual meeting, however, not in 2020, due to the pandemic. The General Assembly of the Society that usually is an integral part of every year’s annual meeting took place digitally using Zoom. The terms of the secretary, Lukas Gallmann (ETHZ), the treasurer, Dirk Hegemann (EMPA), and several section chairs were renewed. For other sections, their respective chairs have reached their final term and, according to the statutes, could not be renewed. A new vice-president, Johan Chang (Uni Zürich) and new section chairs: Marisa Medarde (PSI) for KOND, Guillermo Pedro Acuna (Uni Fribourg) for APQO, Christof Aegerter (Uni Zürich) and Christof Fattinger (em. Roche Basel) for Biophysics, soft matter and medical physics, Gernot Scheerer (CERN) for education and promotion of physics could be found and were elected. However, despite an intense search, no new chair for the section Earth, Atmosphere and Environmental Physics could be found.
The SPS has tight links to the European Physical Society (EPS). TASK chair, Andreas Schopper (CERN), is Member of the Executive Committee of the EPS. In this function, he is in charge of relations with the Belgium, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands and, obviously, the Swiss Member Societies. The president, Hans Peter Beck (Uni Bern), is the Swiss Delegate at EPS Council.
To foster communication among physicists within Europe, SPS is distributing together with its own bulletin the magazine «europhysicsnews» of the European Physical Society (EPS) to its members.
Hans Peter Beck is also liaison officer of SPS and SCNAT to IUPAP.Former SPS president, Minh Quang Tran, is chair of the C16 Commission (Plasma Physics).
The SPS has developed links with the SFP, Société Française de Physique, in the aim of exploring synergies and activities across the borders of the two respective countries. The SPS and the SFP signed a contract to establish a joint prize named the Charpak–Ritz prize. This prize is given alternately one year to a French physicist (in odd years) and to a Swiss Physicist (in even years). The laureate is selected from a list of three candidates nominated by one Society and selected by the Prize Committee of the other Society. The applications from SFP were sent to SPS in 2019 and the winner, Philipp Werner (Uni Fribourg), was selected in 2020 by the French Prize Committee. Philipp Werner was foreseen to receive the Charpak-Ritz medal in the award ceremony of the French Physical Society during the Journées de la Matière Condensée in Rennes, France, on 20 August 2020. Due to the pandemic, also this conference was cancelled and we are awaiting a new date at which Philipp Werner will be able to receive the medal.
SPS maintains strong links with the Austrian Physical Society (ÖPG), which is manifested by the bi-annual organization of joint annual meetings, alternately taking place either at a Swiss or an Austrian venue. The joint meeting 2019 took place at University of Zürich, Irchel, and the next SPS-ÖPG joint meeting is scheduled to take place 2021 in Innsbruck.
The president, Hans Peter Beck, was invited to the Awards Ceremony and the Awards Dinner at the jubilee program for the 175th anniversary of the German Physical Society (DPG), on 31 March, 2020, in Bonn, Germany. This event was also cancelled and the whole jubilee of DPG is postponed to next year as “175+1” celebration.
The SPS is awarding prizes in form of a certificate and a cash sum of CHF 5000.- that are sponsored by Swiss companies who have a strong interest in promoting young talented physicists. The SPS Award committee, presided in 2020 by Minh Quang Tran (em. EPFL, former president), had the great pleasure to select the SPS award winners 2019 from many submitted works of excellent scientific quality. The SPS Prize in General Physics by ABB was awarded to Hiske Overweg (now Machine Learning Researcher at Microsoft, Cambridge, UK, before ETHZ) for her excellent work on electrostatically induced nanostructures in bilayer graphene. Shantanu Mishra (EMPA) was awarded the SPS Prize in Condensed Matter Physics by IBM for his for his excellent work on atomic-scale investigations of carbon magnetism. The Applied Physics Prize, by Oerlikon Surface Solutions AG, was awarded to Michael A. Becker (now MPI Erlangen, before at ETHZ and IBM Research Zürich) for his excellent work on exciton dynamics and light-matter interactions of colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals. Katharina Schmeing (now Besi Switzerland AG, before EPFL) was awarded the SPS Prize by METAS related to metrology for her excellent work in Integrated gallium phosphide photonics. The SPS Prize in Computational Physics by COMSOL was awarded to Frank Schindler (now at Princeton, before Uni Zürich) for his excellent work in higher-order topological insulators.
Due to the pandemic situation, the award ceremony was held digitally. The winners were all invited to present their prize-winning work to a wide and open to the public audience, which was well attended. The president congratulated all the winners with the following words:Thank you for all your wonderful works and achievements and all the best with your next steps in academia, industry and wherever innovation is key and where good insights and persistency when solving whatever task, you will be up to, are deeply required!
The Swiss Physical Society is supporting young physicists via the Young Physicists Forum (YPF). YPF could foster links across all students’ associations at Swiss universities and is organizing a yearly young physicists forum event. In 2020, the topic chosen was ‘Interdisciplinary physics: a miscellaneous of biophysics, medical physics, geophysics and ocean physics’ and was organized 19-20 September as a Zoom event, with young physics students participating from all over Switzerland. Professors from EPFL/University of Lausanne, ETHZ, University of Basel, University of Bern and University of Geneva arranged for a rich program. A full review of the event is available in the SPG Mitteilungen No 63, p44.
The SPS was again involved in the Swiss Physics Olympiad, SwissPhO, which in 2020 was an online event. The two best performing students, Dominik Moos, Kantonsschule Zug (ZG) and Leo Thom, Kantonsschule Kreuzlingen (TG) have been awarded with the "SPG Nachwuchsförderpreis" / "Prix de la Relève de la SSP", given with the support of the Academy SCNAT.
Also the International Physics Tournament, IPT, is among those activities promoting young talents that is pushed and supported by SPS. A Swiss team of young physics students was ready to compete in IPT 2020 that was planned to take place in Warsaw, 12.04 – 17.04.2020.
However, due to the pandemic situation, the event got postponed to a new date and took place online at the end of September 2020, https://2020.iptnet.info/the-conference. The Swiss team, however decided not to participate as, due to the pandemic measures, they didn't have the access to the laboratory infrastructure at EPFL to work on the problems posed and therefore could not derive adequate solutions that could have been presented, discussed and defended at the tournament.
The winners of SwissPhO, EuPhO, IYPT, IYNT, IPT and SJF are usually invited to the SPS annual meeting, where they would be mentioned in the award session and given a tour through the laboratories at the local physics institute where the annual meeting is taking place. It is an event where these young talents get close to each other, get close to a physics site and where they can meet and exchange, certainly an event that stays in their memory. No young talents day, however, could be offered in 2020, but all winners contact data are maintained and they will be invited together with those who will be winners in 2021, to the Röntgen Symposium, organized jointly by SPS together with PGZ and SCNAT.
“Physik im Advent”, http://www.physik-im-advent.de, is an online physics Advent calendar, presenting 24 small, simple experiments and physics riddles to young pupils and anyone interested during advent period every December. The SPS is promoting and sponsoring Physik im Advent in Switzerland and is offering special prices for participants from Swiss schools. Since this is a pure online event it could take place unhindered. Prizes usually include visits to CERN and to the Technorama Winterthur, as well as book prizes and physics gadgets to puzzle the mind. Visits could not be offered in 2020, however, virtual visits to the CERN S’chool Lab could be provided to winning school classes, which was a welcome alternative that still could be organized with help of the SPS education and promotion of physics team, where especially Margherita Boselli and Gernot Scheerer, who both are from CERN, played a major role.
The Swiss Physical Society unites people with deep knowledge and understanding in physics research and development in all branches of industry, at schools, in universities, and research laboratories. Their activities are often at the forefront of new developments that lead to new tools and products of interest for industry, SMEs and potentially leading to new start-up companies.
SPS is a member society of SATW, the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences. One of SATW’s main tasks is the early identification of technologies, which may become important for Switzerland’s economy by creating high level jobs in the next three to five years. To this purpose the SATW’s scientific advisory board looks for promising technologies, evaluates them with respect to their current maturity and their application potential, and publishes the findings every two years in a Technology Outlook Report TOR. For the latest version TOR2021, SPS provided specific input in various areas where physics has a major potential. Several SPS board members have been involved in the preparation of TOR2021 by delivering input about Quantum technology, Quantum computing and Cyberphysical systems. As potential technology candidates for TOR2023, it was proposed to SATW to consider Diamond based Photonics for high power laser and X-ray applications, High field magnets, Ultrafast data transmission by optical comb technology, Robust and sensitive sensors for analytical applications in molecular biology.
Ethics is at the heart of all human endeavor, and there is no exception for physics and the Swiss Physical Society. SPS is participating in the discussions on ethics in an initiative by the European Physical Society on the “Grand Challenges in Physics for Society in the Horizon 2050”
An open, transparent dialogue with society is a core value of scientific research, and is one of the fundamental mission statements of SPS.
In addition to organizing lectures, seminars, and congress events that are open to the public, and in addition to maintaining strong liaisons with schools and teachers in the form of the Physics Olympiad, the Swiss and International Young Physics Tournament, and an initiative for establishing a Physics Teacher education support network (with support of SCNAT). We are about to finish a project supported by SCNAT to study the impact of physics on the Swiss society. A new SPS publication series ‘SPS Focus’ is under preparation that is aiming at topics that raise broad interest in the public and society.